Monthly Archives: April 2012

two random things you might see while biking:)

One:

I pass this tree every time I bike up Willamette to St Johns, but last week it suddenly had clothes hanging all over it:

I have no idea what the clothes were about, but it certainly made for a lot of people stopping mid run or walk or ride or drive and looking quizzical. The clothes were there for about two days before–just as suddenly as they appeared–they all vanished without a trace.

If anyone knows what that was about, I’d love to hear it. I imagine it as a creative art installation designed to get people engaging with each other in public space:)

Two:

Lovely sunset-colored clouds while James and I biked home this evening:

Every time I set out on my bike today I got soaked, even though it didn’t on the whole seem like it rained that much–it just rained at the wrong times for my various commutes. But the payoff was that this evening the sky was amazing. Angry clouds and sun and crazy pinks that I didn’t know existed… I wish I knew how to do it justice with my camera.

spring showers:)

Bike Club today was super exciting: our first “neighborhood ride”–that is, the first time we take the kids out on the roads, riding for real. Woohoo!!

My co-teacher Josh and I were a little nervous because we haven’t had too much of a chance to bike with these kids yet. The weather for this club so far has conspired to keep us indoors more than we’d like–which is okay, because it means that we’ve spent a lot of time getting kids to take off their wheels, learn how to fix flats, correctly use tools, and the like, but it also means that we’ve had much less riding practice under our belts than we’d normally have by now.

Nevertheless, it seemed like it was time to dive in.

Biking with up to 14 kids on the road at the same time is a tricky business, and is dependent on them being able to stay in a straight line on the right side of the road. It’s also dependent on students being able to communicate up and down the line, pointing out hazards and signaling turns. And finally, it’s heavily dependent on everyone trusting each other and trusting me and Josh–we are all there to keep each other safe, and with that many people in a row, we all have to know that everyone’s making the safe decision at all times.

So with a quick game of caterpillar around the school grounds, me in front and Josh in back, our club proved that they were up to the challenge. Out into the streets we went.

The kiddos did an amazing job. Even though it was our first time out, we were able to make it all the way to Fernhill Park and back, with enough time in the middle to enjoy some adventure biking up and down the park’s hills. Luckily, there are a few low-traffic streets linking the school and the park–including a designated bike boulevard–so we were able to practice intersection navigation with some cars but not so many as to make it overwhelming. With Josh and my coaching, our kiddos were able to make it through stop signs, left and right turns, and unmarked intersections, making their own decisions about how to proceed within the rules of the road.

And the best part? Just as we were getting close to school again, the light sprinkle that had developed turned into a full-on downpour. The kids shrieked and howled and were instantly drenched, but rather than being angry at the weather as I was afraid, they were so psyched. “My helmet visor is keeping the rain out of my eyes!” “Eee! I’m getting soaked!” “This is so awesome!!” “It could rain all it wanted and I’d still be happy we’re biking!” It was the best response to inclement weather that we could have hoped for.

Our ride back in the downpour turned into a badge of honor, the stuff of which memories are made. Today will be the day they not only biked to the park and back, but biked to the park and back in the crazy rain and had fun anyway. And for me and Josh, it’ll be the day that these kiddos took their first steps toward transportational autonomy, to navigating their communities on their own.

Not a bad day:)

Breitenbush 300k

I suppose that sometimes I am a cocky bastard. After the Molalla River 200k a few weeks ago, I wrote that it was not as hard as I thought it would be and that I was psyched for the 300k coming up because–I think these were my words–maybe it would be more of the soul-crushing challenge I was hoping for.

I swear, how do you guys even put up with me? :)

But that being said, yesterday’s Breitenbush 300k was not, in fact, a soul-crushing challenge. It was actually quite lovely! The 6am fog shrouding our start burned off after a few hours, leaving nothing but glorious sunshine. It seemed like everyone was in pretty high spirits. I hope so, anyway, because otherwise my uber-exuberant comments about how amazing and beautiful everything was and how much I loved life probably got annoying pretty fast.

Until the hills around Detroit Lake, I spent a good portion of the morning with some variation of this group:

(pictured here are Kevin, Ian, Michael, Ed, and John; not pictured are David, Asta, and Theo)

We split up a bit once the road started climbing more, and I made the hike up to Breitenbush (and most of the rest of the ride) by myself. I was actually kind of excited about that. It was really nice to bike with lovely people for the first many hours, but I also sort of wanted to prove to myself that I could do this kind of thing even if I’m not being entertained by conversation with others. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I wonder sometimes if I actually have the mental fortitude (or whatever you want to call it) to do hard things if they’re not made easier by someone else’s presence. So I was psyched for the chance to spin along with only my own thoughts to keep me company. Just to prove to myself that I can.

(though it’s easy to enjoy yourself when you’re biking by this kind of thing. Mt Jefferson and Detroit Lake)

This was an out-and-back ride. So when I got to the control in Lyons on the way back, at 132 miles, I’d gone as far as I’d ever previously biked in one day. And though I was kind of nervous about the next 60 miles, it turns out that they were totally chill. Aside from 30 or so miles of super intense stomach cramps (if anything, that was the almost soul-crushing part;), I felt pretty spunky. And when I managed to will the cramps into submission with about 25 miles left to go, I was definitely feeling spunky:)

(close to the end and the sun’s still shining!:)

This isn’t anything that I haven’t said before (probably millions of times:), but there is something so rad about getting on your bike in the morning and knowing that you’re going to be biking all day. With short distances, you worry about how long it’s taking you or what you’re going to do when you get there, or any million number of things–but with a ride like this, where you’ve already committed to it taking all day, you just sort of settle in and enjoy it. At least, I do–maybe I shouldn’t speak in universal yous:) But it’s so fricken awesome. And even though I’m still a total newbie to this (all these fools I was biking with who have done ridiculous distances like 600, 1200, whatever k at a time are so inspiring), I seriously can’t imagine anything better.

(though next time I’m going to remember to put on sunscreen)

Now that I know a 300k is totally possible–even thoroughly enjoyable:)–I guess there’s nothing left to do but sign up for a 400k. And then maybe a 600 and 1200;) Bring it.

(more ride pictures here)

Bike Club!

It’s spring! It must be time for another season of Bike Club!

(courtesy of the Community Cycling Center)

That’s right. That means that about 65 kids at six different schools are now deep in the process of learning how to ride safely, read maps, fix simple things on their bicycles, repair flat tires, properly adjust helmets, make sure their bikes are safe to ride, and on and on. But not only that. Through their own hard work those 65 kids are also getting to earn their own refurbished bikes, locks, and tools. It’s not bad for an after-school program: these kiddos get to wrench on bikes, bike around for six weeks, and then go home with a brand new (to them) bicycle, the means to keep it safe, and the knowledge to keep it running.

Teaching Bike Club is one of my favorite things in the world. It’s a perfect combination of education, being outside with kids, and riding bicycles, all some of my greatest loves:) But even more than that, it’s so crazy awesome to see these kids become empowered to control some part of their lives with their new-found transportation. How often does someone give you the means to freedom–and the skills to maintain those means?

(kiddos in a line, right where they belong on the street:) Courtesy of the Community Cycling Center)

Sadly, the Portland Children’s Levy, which has been funding Bike Club since 2005, just cut us off. The Levy funds all sorts of different programs for children, and what with budget concerns and who knows what else, it seems that funding for Bike Club was no longer feasible. Kim Whitney, the Community Cycling Center’s Youth Programs Coordinator (and my lovely boss:) wrote a more comprehensive article about it that you can read here, but basically we’re not too sure what comes next. Something will rise out of the funding ashes, and I have no doubt it’ll be awesome, but this may be the last season of Bike Club as we know it.

So I’m approaching it like any other Bike Club, with enthusiasm, energy, and lots of silly games (I love kids who are still young enough to buy it when I try to turn everything into a game:) But there’s some extra love this time around.

We’re going to have to get creative if we’re going to keep matching kids up with bicycles and the knowledge to ride them safely. But I’m convinced that the Community Cycling Center will find an amazing way to do what the community needs. They always do.